Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gusher 2010

Ah, the Gusher marathon 2010. Where do I begin? I first heard about this race from a flyer I received at a 5K in September '09. My first reaction was the same as most people who saw it. A marathon in Beaumont, Texas on May 1st? I'll pass. Besides, I already had my sights set on Austin in February. I did like the idea of a marathon in Beaumont, though. I went home and joined the group on Facebook and was pleased to see that people were showing interest in this race. The running community in the area seemed to be growing, and I was excited about that. The first volunteer meeting was announced that spring, and judging by the excitement on Facebook, I thought I would be one of many to show up. I went to the meeting to find about two other volunteers besides the race directors and title sponsors. Wow, this race was truly a grassroots effort by a few determined people. I wanted to do everything I could to help. I went to all of the meetings. I had signed up for the full marathon, but switched to the half (again) since my hip was still bothering me. But, this race was not about me. The beauty of the Gusher was seeing other people get up and get moving to train for the race. The running bug was really catching on.

Unbelievably, the race ended up with about 2500 runners...way more than what the directors were prepared for. I worked at packet pick-up until about 9:30 the night before the race, and went home exhausted. There were not enough volunteers to handle the race, and a lot of things went wrong that day. The weather was a big problem. It was hot and extremely humid...even for Southeast Texas. I won't even give a race report. But, lessons were learned that day. A lot of people were able to get a glimpse of the joy of running, and the running community has continued to grow since then.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Austin '10

It was time to start thinking about my next race. I had never done a big marathon before, and I felt that I was ready to give it a try. I decided on Austin and had big plans to train hard and set a PR. The race was set for February 14th, so I started training in October. Things were going so well the first month, I knew it must be too good to be true. It was. On a long run in the middle of November, my hip started hurting so much, that I had to cut my run short and hobble home. I had had bursitis in my left hip before, and that's exactly how this felt. My training came to an abrupt halt. The only thing I could do was spend time on the bike at the gym, and then eventually the elliptical. It was a very depressing time for me, but I tried to stay positive. I held out hope that I could heal in time for the race. When I saw that wasn't going to happen, I switched to the half marathon...I've mentioned before that I'm stubborn. I found some old journal entries from a blog that I had on another site...I had forgotten about this blog until a few days ago. I guess I lied when I said I had never blogged before. Here's what I decided about a week before the race:

Monday, February 08, 2010

I'm heading into this week very unprepared for what is ahead. I'm running a half marathon this coming Sunday. A few months ago, that would have been just a day in the life for me, but now it is a major feat. I have had bursitis in my hip, which all but stopped my training for two months. I've been running again for about three weeks...not enough time to be properly prepared. But I'm going to do it anyway. I have kept up my conditioning somewhat on the bike and elliptical. I'm not going to worry about my time. I'm just going to finish, and I'm going to take walk breaks if I need to. My priorities for this race are:

1) Don't re injure my hip.
2) Have fun.
3) Finish the half marathon.

In that order!

Here is my mantra for the race:
PR is better than PW, PW is better than DNF, DNF is better than DNS.

(PR=personal record, PW= personal worst, DNF=did not finish, DNS=did not start)

(And a few days after the race:)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm finally getting around to writing a race report of the Austin marathon last Sunday. My journey to this event started last October when I signed up for the full marathon in hopes that I could set a new PR by at least ten minutes. I was rockin' through my training, and if I could have continued, I believe I would have reached my goal. Unfortunately, I hurt my hip and wasn't able to train at all. I cross-trained as much as I could, but I could not run for two months. I had switched to the half marathon at the beginning of January ( I could have just given up, but I'm too stubborn for that.) It was still about two more weeks before I was finally able to run more than a couple of miles without pain. I had mixed feelings about whether or not to go through with the race, but I decided that I would just go for it. I wouldn't set a time goal and if I had to stop and walk, I was okay with that.

My husband took the motor home to a state park in Austin on Friday, and I drove up with the kids on Saturday. We had a great day, but my nerves were definitely setting in. I just knew that I was pitifully under-trained for this race and the thought of the hills in Austin scared me to death. I went to bed early and actually got some sleep that night--sometimes I can't sleep before an event. My husband dropped me off near the starting line at 6:15, and I immediately went to the port-a-potty line. That took up about 30 minutes of my waiting time, and then I went straight to the 11 minute mile pace group. I started talking to a woman and the next fifteen minutes flew by. I almost forgot why we were there. The crowd started to move forward at 7:00 (start time), and about ten minutes later, we crossed the starting line. We wished each other luck and were on our way.

I knew better than to start too fast, so I just strolled along for the first few miles. It was all uphill until about mile 3.5, but they were rolling hills and I wasn't tired yet, so they weren't so bad. The bands playing and crowds cheering all along the way made this race so much fun. I couldn't help but laugh at some of the signs that people held. I felt so inspired by some of the people along the way--like the girl with, "This is for you, Grandma" on her shirt, or the girl in the wheelchair that would pass me on all the downhills. I walked for a few seconds through water stations and few times up some of the hills. But, for the most part, I kept running through it all. In the last two miles, the hills got really steep. I decided that I was not going to stop on the notorious final hill of the race. People were cheering and yelling, "Charge that hill!" and "You've got it!" You can't imagine what that did for me. I wish I could thank those people personally. I did charge the hill. I gave it everything I had and started passing people left and right. I knew I was almost to the finish line, and I felt strong. I picked up my pace and charged in to the final mat. Of course, I had to stop short at that point, because there were so many runners packed in the corral at the end. We were herded like cattle to the medal and T-shirt distribution tables. I heard someone call my name and looked up to see my husband and four daughters (and a neighbor/might as-well-call-her-a-daughter who came along). They had just walked up to the fence exactly where I was standing. With 14,000 runners that day, what were the chances of that happening?

So, that's my race report--a little jumbled and jivy, I admit. Before the race started, I told my husband that it would be a miracle if I finished in anything less than 2 1/2 hours. My time was 2:25. That's 20 minutes slower than my PR, but better than I could have hoped for that day. And, my hip took it all pretty well, too. It's feeling good and still getting better. I guess I wasn't as out of shape as I thought!

Seabrook '09

After Surfside, we left the RV park and drove a couple of hours to a state park west of Houston. It was a dreary ride in the motor home, and I guess I had a little bit of post-marathon blues. I knew that circumstances had been beyond my control that day, but I was disappointed that this was my slowest marathon so far. After all of my dedicated training, I didn't want to end the experience on that note. As soon as we made it home on Sunday, I started searching the internet for another race. Seabrook was coming up in about three weeks. I didn't want to run another full marathon that soon, but the half was sounding pretty good. I signed up that day before I could change my mind.

After taking a couple of days off, I ran again that Wednesday. Ouch! My foot was hurting again. I could see that I would not be able to train much for Seabrook. Since I felt that I was still in decent shape from the marathon training, I decided not to worry about it and just have fun. The best thing for my foot was rest...plus I was busy with schoolwork. That semester was my last semester of coursework before I graduated, and my schedule was full. I would think about Seabrook as a nice little weekend get-a-way with my husband.

We took the motor home again and stayed in an RV park in Webster, which was about 20 minutes away from the race. It was a cold and drizzly day...perfect running weather in my opinion. The race was pretty uneventful. The course was the same as before...two loops on the trail beginning and ending at the park. The first mile of the race is on the pavement, then the runners filter on to a small trail. The trail starts at just about the time when some people start to slow down and walk. This can be bad if you get stuck behind someone who stops short on the narrow path. It can be a little frustrating until the crowd thins out and you can find your pace. I have no other complaints, though. This was still an excellent event. My foot did bother me by the second loop, but I managed to finish with a decent time, 2:09, and I felt strong at the end. It was fun, but I promised myself on the way home not to sign up for any more events. I knew I would need to back off to let my foot rest and to concentrate on school. I could see lots of exciting things in my future!

I did make it to graduation that August. After a summer internship at a chiropractor's office, I received my bachelor's degree in exercise science and fitness management. I was proud to reach my lifetime goal to get a college degree. I do have to admit, I was feeling a little lost and unsure of what to do next. I won't go into all the details of my career/education plans, but I knew I wasn't ready to work full-time. It was time to take a year to try to figure it out.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Next stop....Surfside

The rest of 2008 moved merrily along. I made it through the summer...always a notable accomplishment in the Southeast Texas heat. I was cruising through school, too, taking 16 hours a semester and keeping up good grades. By the end of the year, I was ready to take on another marathon training plan. I had figured out by then that the most difficult part of committing to a marathon was being dedicated to training. The marathon itself is just a small portion of the total hours that have to be put into running during the months before. I wanted to continue to run marathons, but my first goal in anything is to maintain balance. No matter how much I enjoy running, I cannot allow it to crowd out more important things in my life. So, I decided that I would set a goal to run one full marathon a year for as long as I can. The Surfside Marathon at Surfside Beach was the one that caught my eye for 2009. I signed up and started training in October '08. The website said to expect a slower pace on the beach. That sounded great to me. I trained diligently through the holidays and felt even more prepared than I had for the Cowtown. That means I could expect about the same pace as Cowtown, right? I did have one little glitch in training. My right foot started to bother me, and I had to take off a week, but it was far enough out from the race that I was able to recover well enough.

As always, I started checking the weather about a week before the race. The forecast changes every day, of course, but I was getting very worried. It looked like it was going to storm. Great! I had signed up for a marathon on the beach in a storm. But, what was I going to do...cancel? Never!

Surfside Beach is about two hours from home. We took the motor home the day before and stayed in an RV park about two miles from the starting line. That morning was cloudy, but so far, there was no rain. I was praying that it would hold out until the end of the day. Surfside is one of the only marathons that is run entirely on the beach. You start at the starting line, run about 2.5 miles down, turn around and run back past the starting line until mile 15.5, then turn around and run back to the finish line/starting line. The first five miles were awesome. I thought I might even PR. That's about when the headwind started. I heard later that it was upwards of 30 mph, but I don't know how accurate that was. It sure felt that way, though. I struggled just to keep my pace below a 12 minute mile. Just when I thought it could not get worse, the rain started. No, the storm started. I have run in rain plenty of times, but never anything like this. It was sharp, stinging rain that pelted me in the face til I could barely keep my head up. I just had to look around at the other runners to see how we all shared in the agony. The 15.5 mile turnaround seemed as if it would never arrive. When I finally got there and turned around, it was like going from night to day. That strong wind was at my back and the rain subsided. Ahhhh...I had never been so relieved. My shoes were still soaked, though, which made for some terrible blisters. But I was so glad to be out of that storm that I didn't even care.

This pretty much sums up the scenery.

My cheering section
 I finished up with a time of 4:47. Oh well, it was quite an experience, anyway. The Surfside Beach Marathon was a fantastic race...well-organized, great swag, BBQ dinner, free smoothies. The scenery does get a little monotonous and there aren't many spectators to cheer you on. But as small as the community is, you can't  expect much in the way of spectators. The sand was pleasant to run on...hard-packed, just as it had been described. Except for the blisters on my feet, I was barely even sore the next day. I managed to place third in my age group, and the award was a cool plate. The little community of Surfside knows how to put on an awesome event!

Exhausted at the finish line

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back to the Past

Summer of 2007 was the first summer that I was able to run through. Since I had started running in '04, I'd had some sort of injury or incident that had kept me from running through the hot months. This summer, my goal was simply to run all summer without getting hurt. I found out quickly that I'm not a very good hot weather runner. Plugging along was about all I was able to do. I had some tough classes that year, and I remember recording my notes and listening to them while I ran...boring stuff. By the end of the season, I was getting over my slump and starting to feel more energetic.

One morning, one of my running buddies announced that she wanted to run a marathon, and she had her sights set on the Cowtown in Fort Worth the following February. Hmmm, I looked it up, and it sounded pretty fun. I decided to do it to be supportive of my friend, wink, wink. I started training for the marathon somewhere around October. This time, I had a few anatomy and physiology and ex phys classes under my belt, so I was not as clueless about how to prepare. I followed a Hal Higdon training plan to near perfection--even through the holidays. Nutrition was a little more difficult, as it always is for me, but about two or three weeks away from the race, I became very diligent in following a fueling plan. I learned to consume gels, and how to plan my hydration to maximize performance without getting sick. This also had been difficult for me, because I tended to suffer from GI problems. My friend and I trained together up until the New Year, when she got hurt and had to drop out of the race. It was a big disappointment for her, and I felt almost guilty for going through with my plans. This had been her idea, after all, and now she wouldn't be able to do it. I decided to do it anyway, since I had worked so hard.

February 23rd was the big day. My husband and I loaded up the kids in the motor home on Friday and drove up to Cedar Hill State Park, which was about a five hour drive. It was dark and cold when we got there, so we went straight to bed. To my surprise, I slept like a baby until my alarm went off at 5 am. I ate my standard prerace breakfast, toast with peanut butter and banana. I had been carefully carb loading for a few days, and I had my gels ready for the run. I was not going to make the same mistakes again. Fort Worth was about 30 minutes away, and we got there at about 6:15. My husband and kids saw me safely to the packet pickup line and waited for me to get everything I needed. After making it through the porta-potty line and getting the chip on my shoe, I could hear the announcer at the starting line a couple of blocks away. I kissed the family goodbye and scurried off to start the race. It took a few minutes of walking to get through the starting line, but once I did, it felt so good to start running. I had a lot of positive thoughts going on, and I knew it would be a good race.

The course started with a cruise downhill, and continued through the streets of Fort Worth, one hill after another. I'm from the flat lands of Southeast Texas, where the only hills we have are overpasses or parking garages. I had not trained for hills, to say the least, but I was surprised to find that they weren't as troublesome as I had feared. I wish I could remember all the details of that run. I know I felt alone, but not lonely. I didn't use an ipod or have any friends to keep me company, but I enjoyed every minute. Well, almost ever minute..it was pretty tough at times, but I gave myself lots of pep talks and made it through. I found several runners to chat with here and there along the way. Two miles from the finish line, just when I was feeling overwhelming relief and excitement, I turned a corner and found myself staring straight up a monster hill. This was by far the cruelest part of the course. The rest of the race was a series of hills. It was all I could do to finish. The sight of the finish line was up there with some of the best things I've seen in my whole life. I finished strong with a sprint into the corral. Where was my family? I looked everywhere, but couldn't see them. Then I saw my husband dashing down the street to meet me. He had taken the kids to get pizza in a little shop near the finish line, and saw me run by while they were enjoying their pizza. He thought he had a few more minutes. I guess I showed him! My finish time was 4:27...13 minutes faster than my first. Considering those crazy hills, I was extremely proud of my performance. My first half was 2:09. I didn't stick around for the after-race party.

I loved this race. The weather was perfect, and I was well-prepared. It was my best ever, but would I do it again? Probably not. I have never been so sore after a race. I lost both big toenails and had IT band problems for the first time ever. I blame it not on the hills, but on the severe camber of the road. It was a full week before I could attempt a run, and a while after that before I could really enjoy it. But, I learned something about myself. I learned that I am capable of reaching and trying new things and improving my performance. I don't know if I believed that before, but I do now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nasty stomach bug destroys running plans this week

My running plans were pretty much a wash this week. I had a terrible stomach bug on Thursday and Friday. I'm better now, but not better enough, as I learned on the run this morning. I started optimistically enough, but had to walk after three miles. I've lost four pounds in the last two days, so I know I'm dehydrated. I managed to walk another two miles...in the shade with a water bottle, thankfully. Now I've got to take the girls shopping for girl's camp, and then the rest of the weekend I plan to rest and recuperate even more. Surely by Monday I'll feel much better. I'm going to run Monday morning and then work at the results table that night at the summer run put on by the local running club. I love volunteering and seeing others discover the joy of running! In the next blog, I'll get back to past race reports. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seabrook Lucky Trails 2007

As much as I enjoyed my first marathon, I now know that I didn't fuel properly or recover properly. I started back slowly, which was good, but within a few weeks, I felt terrible and had no energy. I was working out too much and eating too little. I ran with a group of friends and could barely keep up. But, I wouldn't quit for anything--not even bronchitis...big mistake. A couple of friends and I had signed up for the Seabrook Lucky Trails half marathon on March 17, 2007. I was determined to do it no matter what. I got better before the race, but was still having some respiratory problems.
Race day arrived, and I went through with my plans. My husband and I made the two hour drive over that morning. The race starts at a park and runs on pavement for the first mile or so. Then it moves to a small gravelly trail. It's a double loop and ends in the park...very nice course. I figured out pretty quickly that I was not going to be able to keep up, so I told my friends to go on without me. It was a long 13.1 miles, but I finished. About 3/4 of a mile from the finish line, I happened upon a poor woman lying over in the ditch. I looked again and realized it was my friend! Medics were already there helping her, so I ran as fast as I could to the finish line to tell her husband. It was a warm day, and she got overheated. She actually has an allergic reaction to heat. So, that wasn't very fun for her, but we did all survive that day somehow. I have to say that the race directors were the best ever. They invited my friend to go back to the course two weeks later and finish the race. They even set up the finish line for her and ran with her from the point where she had fallen. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty--I was very impressed!

My time was 2:20...not impressive, but I'll take it. I should not have been out there in the first place. I ended up with exercise induced asthma for several months and had to use an inhaler. Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My first marathon

           Like I said before, I never have wanted to blog. It's hard to imagine that anyone would be interested in what is going on in my running life. Now that I look back over the last 7 1/2 years, though, I wish I would have been keeping records of my running journey. Maybe no one else would have been interested, but it would have been a great way for me to look back and remember and learn from my running experiences. So, for the next few posts I will back-track and tell the stories of my marathons and maybe a few half-marathons, as well.

            I ran my first marathon in November 2006...the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The race was in honor of a running legend in our community who passed away several years ago. His children had decided to put together a small race with friends and family. We all talked about it for months, and three friends and I trained for it together. They were planning to run the half, but I wanted to take on the full distance. It was going to be informal, but I thought that there were others who were planning to run the full marathon as well. About two weeks until the big day, I found out that I was, in fact, the only person training to run the full marathon. Let me mention that I hate being the center of attention. At that point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with it. I could have easily dropped down to the half marathon distance, but my friends encouraged me to go through with it. I didn't know anything about fueling, hydration, training...pretty much anything. After about four hours of sleep the night before, I stepped outside into the cool but humid morning and drove the one mile from my house to the starting line. I ran the first half with friends; there were about 20 some-odd other people running the half. It turned out that one other guy from the local running club showed up to run the full, so I actually was not the only participant.
            Everyone had advised me to take it slow, so I did. My mind kept dwelling on mile 17. I had heard that that's when "the wall" appears. With no garmin and no mile markers, I had no idea when it was going to happen. My friends who had finished the half came out to cheer for me and even run with me a mile here and there. Then, a childhood friend came out to run the last five miles with me. When I saw him, the first thing I asked was, "Where is mile 17?" He assured me that I had already made it past mile 17. I was so relieved that I had not hit the wall! He talked me through the last few miles, and helped me cross the busy highway to make it back to the finish line. What a wonderful feeling! Friends and family were waiting for me. They even made a banner for me to bust through at the end. My time was 4:40, but the best part was that I felt strong. Tony, the other marathon runner, had finished about 20 minutes earlier. He congratulated me and told me he was impressed with how "fresh" I looked. In my opinion, that was the best compliment I could have asked for, but it also made me realize that I probably could have gone faster. Of course, that made me anxious to train for another marathon and see if I could improve my time. (That's a story for another blog.) Now every time I see Tony at a running event, he tells everyone that I once came in second place at a marathon!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Little Better

Mileage has been a little better this week. I actually got to run Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and today...my normal schedule. Plus, I have been adding at least a mile walk at the end of each run and an extra workout of some sort in the evening, usually pilates. Boy, hot weather running is not my favorite thing. I lost about three pounds on the run this morning, even though I thought I was hydrating properly. And this is only June! When I was running this morning, I had the thought, "Some days I run, and some days I just throw myself at the road." Today was definitely the latter. I did meet up with a friend and have a nice chat this morning, which made the experience much more bearable. I miss the days of having running partners. My friends and I used to meet at 5:15 am during the school year--6:30 during the summer. We called that our social hour, since we didn't have much else in the way of social lives. "What's said on the road stays on the road!" That was our motto. One by one, my friends moved away or became injured or had babies or had schedule changes. So it goes. Now I listen to podcasts on my ipod and live for the rare moments that I meet up with a friend and have a real conversation. By the end of the summer, I'll start training for a half marathon in October. For now, I'll just keep plugging along.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Low Mileage

Saturdays are long run days. Typically I go around seven miles if I'm not training for something. Today was only four miles. My daughter had to be somewhere at 7:45, and I hit the alarm a couple of times this morning before I finally got out of bed. That's one thing I miss about having a running partner. I wouldn't do that if I knew someone was waiting for me. So, four miles today puts me at about 20 miles for the week...definitely on the low end. I'd like to get my miles up to around 30-35 by the end of summer. I promised myself no more marathons til I'm done with school, but I'd like to run a couple of half marathons in the fall. Gotta go pack. The family is camping this weekend. Should be fun...

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Running Story

I've never wanted to blog before. I'm afraid that I won't have much to say. I'll start with my running story. I have loved to exercise all of my life. I figured out at a very early age that exercise made me feel good. I was in athletics, but I was never particularly good at any sport. I stayed in the program for three years (7th-9th grades) just to get the workout. I loved basketball and track...running snakes in the bleachers...shooting baskets with the team. I loved staying in shape. After I quit athletics, I still liked to work out to videos at home. Kathy Smith was my idol. But, it wasn't the same. I married young and had four kids. I went through a few health kicks here and there, but working out was not top priority during my young mommy years. When my baby was one year old, I decided it was time to change that. I started dieting and exercising and lost 30 pounds in 2000. The next four years were pretty good, but I did yo-yo a bit. After I had gained about 10 pounds back, I decided to start running. I was a regular exerciser, so it shouldn't have been that hard, haha! I couldn't run more than 1/2 mile in February of 2004. I found the couch to 5K program and within two months, I was running three miles without stopping. Since that time, I have run five marathons, and I don't know how many half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. Running has been a lifesaver for me. It's an analogy to life in so many ways. Exercise is fascinating to me. I went back to school in 2006 and got my bachelor's degree in exercise science and fitness management in 2009. Now I'm back again pursuing my master's degree in dietetics. In about two years, I hope to be a registered dietitian. Running has definitely carried me through.

Running Through...

"The only way out is through."--Robert Frost

Through hard days as a mom...through tough college classes...through difficult workouts...through crazy long runs...
Running has taught me that I can get through hard things and come out a better person for having gone through them. So, I run through ups and downs and ins and outs...hard times and good times...decisions...conversations...new places...same old places...daylight...darkness...the list goes on.
Sometimes I run through things that I shouldn't...injury...illness...overtraining...under sleeping...
Part of learning to run through is learning when not to run through.